Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ultimate Reviews Part 4: Ultimate X-Men - The Millar Run

Reviewing Ultimate X-Men Issues 1-33 and Ultimate War 1-4:
Superstar writer Mark Millar has delivered renowned comics such Civil War, Old Man Logan, Kick Ass, and the Ultimates. While they aren't masterpieces of writing, they are widely read and generally well received.

In February of 2001, Marvel launched the second ongoing series in their Ultimate imprint. Marvel intended Ultimate X-Men to be continuity

free and for new readers and longtime X-Men fans alike. By the end of 2001, Ultimate X-Men was the best selling comic book of the year.

That being said, Mark Millar's tenure on Ultimate X-Men isn't very good. While he has action packed stories, they are heavily weighed down by expository dialogue. Awkward, unnecessary, and worst of all distracting dialogue plagues his run. There's nothing unique the way each character talks, the dialogue is interchangeable. Another major problem is although the X-Men, save Logan, are all teenagers, they don't talk or act like teenagers. This is in a way ironic, as there is a lot of teenage angst throughout his run.

There are good things to be had, Millar's team roster is perfect; Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Beast, Storm, and Iceman. While the series can feel a little Wolverine-centered, this is at its core a team book and Millar preserves that dynamic. Millar also blends story and action very well. Each of his arcs are fun and engaging. I could easily see them becoming movies one day.

The best thing about Ultimate X-Men is how refreshing it is. Characters have different personalities from their 616 (Primary Marvel Universe) counterparts, some were subtle differences and some were not. For example, Colossus was still Russian and implied to be gay (This was proven to be true by the end of the Brian K. Vaughn run). Magneto is portrayed as being far more genocidal than he was in Uncanny X-Men.

Millar also does a fantastic job with writing engaging and enjoyable stories. While his pacing can seem a little off at times, Millar manages to keep you reading until the last page. Millar blends high octane action scenes and epic plots to deliver some truly awesome stories.
In the Tomorrow People, Millar introduce his own unique versions of familiar characters. Colossus is an arms dealer, Jean is a former psychiatric patient, Beast is disowned by his parents, and Logan works (worked) for Magneto. Cyclops and Iceman are subtly different, nothing as radical as the others. Magneto is a radical terrorist who launches an all out assault on Washington D.C. The Sentinels play a large part in this first arc, and make a formidable and fearsome enemy. Millar's next few arcs prove to be equally entertaining. Return to Weapon X brings Nightcrawler, Juggernaught, Rogue, and Sabretooth into the Ultimate universe. Each is radically different, particularly Nightcrawler. We get to see the X-Men enslaved by the sinister Weapon X, forced to do terrible things. World Tour features an amalgamation Legion and Proteus. The X-Men go on a world tour to promote the idea of mutant/human peace. Hellfire and Brimstone has Kitty Pryde join the X-Men, the Ultimate version of Mastermold, and the very awesome version of the Hellfire Club. Ultimate War is basically the Ultimates vs the X-Men after the government discovers Magneto is still alive and well. While this is a simple idea, it is executed well. The Kubert brothers did fantastic artwork. Bachalo and Kaare Andrews artwork wasn't for my tastes, some may enjoy it.

Millar's final arc is Return of the King, and it is one of my favourite X-Men related stories. The Master of Magnetism has returned, and he's launching his all out plan to rid the world of humans. He gathers two of every animal, even humans, in preparation for his master plan. David Finch and Adam Kubert artwork really complements Millar's epic storytelling in this arc.

Overall Mark Millar's inaugural run on Ultimate X-Men is flawed, but a worthwhile read. The plentiful dialogue may keep some from enjoying this arc, it is worth looking into if you've ever wanted to read a X-Men series. This is perfect for new readers.

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